Archbishop Conti calls on Lords to reject euthanasia

  In a letter to Members of the House of Lords, ahead of a crucial vote later this week, Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow has urged peers to reject proposals which would legalise euthanasia. Archbishop Conti is a member of the Bishops' Joint Bio-Ethics Committee - the agency of the Catholic Church in the UK and Ireland which specialises in bio-ethical issues - and also President of the Commission for Doctrine and Unity of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Scotland. The text of Archbishop Conti's letter follows: My Lord, I write ahead of the up-coming debate on Lord Joffe's Patient Assisted Dying Bill. I am aware that the House of Lords Select Committee considered proposals to legalise euthanasia several years ago and came out strongly against any change on the law. As a member of the Bishops' Joint Committee on Bioethics (covering Great Britain and Ireland) I have taken a close interest in bio-ethical issues. I have heard grave misgivings voiced regarding the allegedly model system of euthanasia currently practised in the Netherlands. It is in fact far from admirable, having paved the way for involuntary euthanasia and a lack of alternative care for the terminally ill. I find it significant that the BMA, Help the Aged and the Disability Rights commission have added their voices of opposition to the proposed change in the law - an opposition which is shared by the majority of doctors in this country according to the most recent opinion polling. More than three quarters surveyed said they would refuse to perform euthanasia even if it were legalised. It is especially revealing that not a single palliative care doctor who responded to the most recent survey of medical opinion was prepared to practise so-called mercy killing. To permit assisted suicide is to overturn a long settled conviction that as suicide itself is wrong - and until recently a criminal offence - assisting the act is nefarious. It is also subversive of the implicit trust placed in the medical profession by patients. To take this step would be to open a very dangerous breach in the protective shield currently provided to the most vulnerable citizens by British law. We have a fine tradition in this country of curing the sick and caring for those who are terminally ill. This great tradition finds particular expression in the hospice movement. It is in improving and enlarging our hospices, not in practising euthanasia on the old, the vulnerable and the frail that we advance as a civilised nation. I appeal to you, My Lord, to engage in the debate on June 6th and to use your voice to defend those in greatest need of our protection. Yours devotedly +Mario Conti Archbishop of Glasgow

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